February 1

Holiday Preparations #1


“I’m trying to calm him down.”  Macy huddled the creature close.  It was a strange accessory to her thick coat, wool cap, and layered sweatpants: a breathing, fur-lined muff, with long claws.

“You’re doing a terrible job.”  Patrick, ever the pessimist.  His life’s philosophy had been proven correct in recent months, but that didn’t give him the right to be so unsupportive.  He paced the window-less room, his footsteps echoing off cinderblock walls.  “What song was that, anyway?  You were ruining it.”

“Whatever comes into my head.  I’ve got a lot of time to fill.”  She almost said kill, but stopped herself in time.

“Well, it’s not calming at all,” Patrick said.  “Not with that nervous quaver in your voice.”

“I’m cold,” she said. “It’s from shivering.  Maybe he’ll think it’s vibrato.”

“We’re all cold,” Patrick said under his breath.

She resumed singing, this time a variation on “Old MacDonald’s Farm.”  Even though she’d been a trained zookeeper in her former life, she ran out of animals by the sixth verse — she couldn’t picture them anymore, or remember their sounds, so she cycled back to the cow and pig for the finale.

“Time for ’99 Bottles of Beer’,” Patrick suggested.

“I don’t think he’d like that one.”  She ran a cold hand over the whistle-pig’s back.  The nervous animal wriggled in her lap, stretched and rolled in an angry fall to the floor.  Its nails tacked sharp on the tiles as it skittered to the far corner of the room.

Patrick lost it, raising his arms and shouting.  “You’re supposed to know what to do!  We need him calm for tomorrow!”

Macy didn’t have a song to sing for Patrick.  She was here to train an animal, and her human companion needed more attention.

Each outburst made poor Phil more nervous:  he pressed his plump body against the corner, short rodent arms reaching to claw at the walls as if he could burrow his way out of the shelter.

“You’ve got to calm him down!”  More dramatic shouts to frighten the poor animal.  “We can’t take six more weeks of winter.  We can’t!”